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Acolytes: Poems Hardcover – January 23, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The extraordinarily popular Giovanni got that way as a black militant during the 1970s, known for her inspirational, fiery live and recorded performances. This first volume since her 2003 Collected Poems loses the fire but keeps the inspiration: "Poetry says No to destruction and Yes to possibility," Giovanni declares. Her mix of lineated and prose poetry says yes over and over—to the glories of children and grandmothers, to "the men with hopes and dreams and talents," as well as to the memory of the African-American cultural heroes who died in the last few years. Many pages are, in effect, orations: "We will miss June Jordan. For her courage, her insight, her love of us all. We will miss this poet." Some of the strongest and most detailed works are short, not especially lyrical, pieces in prose. One remembers meeting Gwendolyn Brooks; another shows a grandmother's strong support for Virginia Tech Hokies football. Giovanni's most serious verse and prose link her own struggles—as a black woman, as a latter-day icon, as a cancer survivor, as a teacher—to the larger patterns of black American history, of striving toward freedom always: "I choose always as best I can to keep truth and compassion in my life." (Feb.)
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From Booklist

A living legacy of the female and African-American experience, Giovanni has published countless books, been honored with numerous awards, and been heralded as a poet of social conscience. Her latest book presents 80 poems that embody the main element that propelled Giovanni's emergence as a powerful voice during the Black Arts Movement: the drive to keep slavery, injustice, and the struggle for civil rights alive in America's consciousness. For this, Giovanni has become an important cultural figure. Yet, from a poetic and literary standpoint, this collection disappoints. Giovanni retraces old ground, and offers more straightforward memoir than imagistic, rhythmically sophisticated poetic song. That said, Giovanni has a dedicated audience, and though this isn't her best work, Giovanni stands as a poet who opens our minds, eyes, and hearts. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (January 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231315
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,063,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on January 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Acolytes are helpers usually assisting in the administration of rites or rituals and Nikki Giovanni's newly released book of poems of the same name celebrates many of those who have served in the struggle for justice. Acolytes opens with "We Gather: An Invocation for the Underground Railroad" which commemorates those courageous people who sacrificed much to ensure freedom for themselves and others. The book stays on point praising the infamous personalities who lent their extraordinary talents and endless dedication to the cause. It honors a myriad of contributors across all genres of sports, music, politics, and literature such as Jackie Robinson, Nina Simone, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Height, June Jordan, Gwendolyn Brooks, The Isley Brothers and others. She also hails the unsung heroes with heart filled recollections and thoughtful odes to her friends, family, and those who influenced her along the way, such as Mrs. Long, her first librarian.

In classic Nikki style, she blends the old and new by keeping her pulse on current events with reflections on Hurricane Katrina, rap music, the Bush Administration, American pop culture, but keeps us spiritually grounded in the past with reflections on racism in the moving piece, The Death of Innocence, that centers on the lynching of Emmett Till.

Just like its author, the book is small in size, but contains an ample dose of thought-provoking, spirit-moving prose sprinkled with a few of her favorite recipes for good measure. Her wit, wisdom, and heart-felt compassion resonates between the lines and will stay with you long after the book is closed. Nikki's fans will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Phyllis

APOOO BookClub

Nubian Circle Book Club
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Marray on December 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was dedicated to those close to Giovanni she had lost. She admitted recently on the "Tavis Smiley Show" (2/26/07) that she has had to adjust her view about who she writes for. Other than her adoring fans, she said she mostly wrote because of her mother. And so with her mother's death in 2006 she has had to adjust her thinking when it comes to the audience or muse that she writes for.

She also admitted in her speeches that this was a "book of loss" but she still continues on to do what she loves. She ended this book with love poems such as "Your pillow" and "I am your allergy" because she said she wanted to give the book an uplifting conclusion. And also to lead into her next book which she said would be a book of love poems.

Her prose writing in "Acolytes" is also a joy to read. After reading "The Best Midnight Snack Ever", you'll find yourself eager to accept her recommendations.

Nikki is one of my favorite writers, and after meeting her in person I can say she's a joy to be around (especially for an old lady *smile*). I'd recommend this to any lover of poetry.
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Format: Hardcover
I started reading this book and discovered to my delight two poems dedicated to Nina Simone. With that I jumped up hoping my record player still worked and put on one of my many Nina Simone records. As I thought about it, that is probably why Nikki Giovanni speaks so powerfully to me, she has followed in the path Nina Simone blazed and lit it up.

This is illustrated in the piece "I Am Mighty Mouse". The annual National Council of Negro Women was holding its annual dinner in Cincinnati. Marge Schott, the managing general partner of the Cincinnati Reds and a known racist, decided to attend the dinner to show she was in fact not a racist and was allowed to via making a large donation. Dr. Dorothy Height, the leader of the NCNW, "was worried. She understood the significance of Marge Schott sitting at a table under the banner of NCNW: She knew it would appear as if everything was all right;Schott had simply been misunderstood. That bothered Dottie. She was looking for a way to keep the reputation of the NCNW clean. The keynote speaker would be the key.

What Dorothy Height decided:Dottie said to her aide 'I must speak with our keynoter. I must make her or him understand what is at stake. Marge Schott must not be allowed to get away with this. Who is the speaker?' Her aide called Cincinnati to ask who is the keynoter. Nikki Giovanni she was told. The aide reported back to Dr. Height: it is Nikki Giovanni.

'Nikki?' asked Dottie. 'Are you sure?' 'Yes, Dr. Height, I am sure.' 'Well then,'said the mighty one, 'I'm gong to bed.' 'Don't you want to talk with her?' Height was asked. 'Oh, no. Nikki will take care of it. Good night.'"
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